If media personnel are corruptly acquiring gun licences from the Police Service, whether through contact with Commissioner Gary Griffith or not, then that should be thoroughly investigated and dealt with. This newspaper holds no brief for anyone, including persons in the media, who are part of any gun racket.
Like anyone else, persons in the media have the right to apply for gun licences and to expect fair and equal treatment by the TTPS if they meet the qualifications. What we are deeply concerned about is the finding reported by the Sunday Express two weeks ago that applicants willing to pay substantial sums of money are being fast-tracked through the system via private companies and some applicants who do not meet the criteria are being approved.
We thought Commissioner Griffith would have appreciated the report. After all, he was so unhappy with the TTPS’ system for processing applications for Firearms User’s Licences (FUL) that it was restructured. Repeatedly since then, Commissioner Griffith has urged the public not to pay for licences, acknowledging that persons claiming to have links within the TTPS have been offering to facilitate licences for fees running to $50,000.
Notwithstanding the changes to the system, the Sunday Express exclusive report of October 25 found several cases of licences being granted to persons who did not meet the criteria but had paid a third party to facilitate the process.
In taking objection to the report, Commissioner Griffith attempted to turn the tables on the media, claiming that “20-something” persons from the media have received FULs and that he had approved a licence for the husband of one person. We would hope that all these licences conformed to the requirements and that none was improperly approved by the commissioner.
We hope that in dragging the media applicants into the issue of a gun racket, Commissioner Griffith is not suggesting that we should not focus on the corruption. If, as he is insinuating, the licences to media persons were not properly approved, then we would have to point out that two wrongs don’t make a right.
If, however, the 20-something media persons who have been granted licences during his tenure met all the requirements, then we consider his statement to be a slur designed to undermine public trust in our report and, by extension, the media. As Commissioner Griffith should know, we do not scare easily.
We are not surprised that media persons would plead their case to the commissioner if they are having problems acquiring a gun licence through no fault of their own since the backlog for FULs is legendary. After all, not only is Commissioner Griffith the most media-accessible Police Commissioner since the late Randolph Burroughs, but he makes himself accessible to everyone by every means of communication. Indeed, one of his first acts in office was to establish the public hotline 482-GARY.
While we defend the rights of media personnel to an FUL on the same basis of everyone else, we would hope that no licences are awarded to any media person in breach of the requirements.